Barbara Hodgkinson, Oboe

Barbara Hodgkinson, Oboe

It was a frustrating day. Barbara walked to the stairs. She was going to launch her oboe down the stairs and smash it to bits. Ok, she didn’t. Rewind.

Barbara grew up in suburban Chicago and began studying oboe when she was 10. “My very intelligent mother got a children’s record that introduced all the instruments. I had to listen for a week before I could choose and instrument. I liked the sound of the oboe best.” And even though her mother was a clarinetist, Barbara got the oboe. She had lessons and, despite those few frustrating days, competed in annual state wide music competitions during both middle and high school. Music—and math (this becomes important later)—were always her favorite academic subjects.

Barbara went to Stanford university as a music major, studying with Ray Duste of the San Francisco Symphony. Another high point of her music education there was studying with John Chowning, the inventor of FM synthesis and founder of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. (See the math coming back in?) Barbara’s BA in Music included multiple electrical engineering and computer language courses.

Next came a 36-year career in information technology during the heady days of booming Silicon Valley, starting with Amdahl. “I lived in Palo Alto when Mountain View was still orchards!” Barbara gradually moved into executive positions with companies like Bank of America, Charles Schwab and Yahoo. But. The oboe did not come on this journey. “Long hours, weekends, being on call. If you can’t play oboe every day, you really can’t play it at all. Put it down for a week and….”

The oboe has now moved front and center since Barbara’s retirement. Barbara is Vice President of the California Symphony, a professional orchestra in Walnut Creek California that sponsors young American composers and underwrites free music education for Downer Elementary school in San Pablo. She studies chamber music performance at Crowden and plays with the Oakland Symphony Orchestra, the Temple Hill Symphony, the Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra and, of course, Prometheus. “Eric really challenges us and I’m playing pieces I never thought I could play. I’ll play as much as Prometheus will let me!” Well, let’s make that lots, please!

~ Joyce Vollmer

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